Brainiacs take over Auckland!

A lifelong love of learning took centre stage at the Auckland Business School on Saturday 19th March, when the Centre for Brain Research held its annual public Brain Day.

Over 3000 people visited the free event, which forms part of international Brain Awareness Week. The open day is held inassociation with the Neurological Foundation of New Zealand, and aims to raise awareness of brain research. According to the Dana Foundation, who organises the international campaign, the event is the busiest of its kind in the world.

Visitors were engaged on every level, with brain painting and ‘play-dough surgery’ for budding neuroscientists and neurosurgeons, right through to tips on ageing well for those at the other end of the life spectrum.

Scientists from across the centre gave a series of lectures in the Fisher and Paykel Appliances Auditorium, which were filled to capacity. Neurologist Professor Alan Barber, the Deputy-Director of the centre, spoke about his research into stroke and the need to treat patients urgently. Psychologists Professors Karen Waldie and Ian Kirk talked about child development and learning and memory, while movement scientist Professor Winston Byblow prescribed exercise for keeping your brain young.

Professor Suzanne Purdy talked about her team’s research on speech therapy, looking at both music and conversation. The final exciting talk of the day came from neurosurgeon Dr Edward Mee, recounting the history of surgery on the brain.

Children were also catered for, with a series of workshops and lectures helping young adults to experience the brain. One of the lecturers was neuroscientist, Dr Johanna Montgomery. “It’s really important to us to be able to tell the public what brain scientists do,” she says. “We love what we do – the brain is such an amazing organ. To be able to convey this to adults and children alike and enable them to see how cool it is to be a neuroscientist is great for the present and the future of neuroscience and health research in New Zealand.”

Community groups from all over Auckland also took part in the day, with a Community Expo providing information on many different neurological conditions. It was a chance for people with similar interests to find out vital information on the services available to people with brain disease.

New to 2011 was the addition of the ‘Brainiacs Kids Club’. Young adults of all ages made their own brain model and then used the model as a map, to explore a giant tour of the brain around the event. Science experiments were laid out on this ‘Mind Map’, demonstrating brain anatomy, our senses and movement control.

Neurophysiologist Dr Cathy Stinear was the organiser of the science labs. “We had a range of interesting activities to demonstrate some fascinating things about the brain,” she says. “If you’ve ever wondered how you can be tricked by illusions, or what a real human brain looks like, then you can discover the answers to these and many more questions at Brain Day. We’re really pleased by the success of the event and are already planning for next year!” 

Lecture presentations can viewed on the Brain Day 2011 website.